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Online availability of commoditized legal services – keep holding your breath

A thoughtful review of British legal technology in LegalIT (Oct. 11, 2005) cites Hammonds Direct. Hammonds, a large British firm, combined online technology and process engineering in the conveyancing (real estate) market to dominate that market with banks and other lending institutions. The article distinguishes commodity legal work that law departments can obtain through an online site from the next level up of legal sophistication: online legal services.

Linklaters’s Blue Flag, Clifford Chance’s NextLaw, and Allen & Overy’s online banking capabilities are mentioned, but “most firms found that the demand for these services from clients simply was not there.”

Are the online services not robust enough? Are law department troglodytes unnerved by using them? Has collaboration fallen through? My hunch is that people want to talk to people, not labor through the online equivalent of a labyrinthine automated telephone answering system.